Tue. Apr 13th, 2021

The team announced yesterday to face Hull Ionians shows only two changes, both of which are enforced as a result of injuries to Tony Fenner and Jack Willis. A third change occurs on the bench where Boris Stankovich returns, having recovered from a knee problem at the expense of Jimmy Litchfield.

More often than not, each week Rowland Winter has made a couple of surprise selections that few of us could have foreseen, especially in the forwards. This  week, however, Cov’s DoR has opted to stick as far as is possible with the team that started so well in the first half against Plymouth and showed such character to eventually earn the win deep into injury time when it looked to everyone in the ground that, with just 2 minutes to full-time to go, Cov has conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Rowland Winter has tended to rotate players in the past, with the likes of Tom Poole, Tom Jubbs and Brett Daynes all getting recent game time, but for the trip to Hull Ionians it seems as if he and the coaches have decided to place their faith in last week’s winning squad. And although all the above may well be disappointed at being left out of the march day squad (although Tom Jubb does make the journey as one of the two travelling reserves, together with James Pritchard), it’s hard to argue against such a decision, whatever the reasons.

Cov’s away form is pretty poor. In fact with the possible exception of Moseley, it’s been worse than poor. It therefore makes complete sense to me to keep together a group of players, most of whom have a couple of consecutive wins under their belts and who will be in confident mood. Plymouth will be up there in the top three or four come April and the manner of Coventry’s win, especially in the first half, must have given everyone involved great heart…you’d certainly think so anyway. Why change a winning team?

As Boris mentioned earlier in the week, it’s about small steps…but you can only take small steps when you’re up on your feet; after defeats against Blackheath, Hartpury and Esher it was beginning to feel as if we were anything but standing tall. So to give last week’s team a vote of confidence in this way strikes me as no bad thing. Whether spoken or just implied, the message seems to be, ‘You’ve earned the chance, now prove we’re right…’.

We know that next week, unless the situation has changed somewhat, the three Wasps’ Academy players will be back at the Ricoh, so consequently there will be a fair few changes within the team anyway. And provided we win on Saturday, and that’s by no means a certainty, RW can afford to rotate players the following week against a Blaydon side that has yet has to win a game and is leaking an average of 45 points every time they take to the pitch.

That said. the absence of Tony Fenner and Jack Willis is certainly a blow. Both have been instrumental in Coventry’s last two wins.

Fenner, outside of his willingness to give his backs opportunities to attack wherever possible, always puts in a strong defensive shift which seldom gets a mention and he rarely gets the plaudits I think he deserves. But in Will Maisey, the club has an ideal replacement and if anything he is even more attack-minded and is a better distributor of the ball. That said, his overall game doesn’t seem quite as strong as TF’s, especially when Cov are on the back foot. But he’s still relatively young and offers Cov a lot of options at fly half and in the centres; a very useful player to have in reserve.

I genuinely hope that we haven’t seen the last of young Jack Willis at the BPA this season, or indeed Tom Howe and Owain James.

Saying that isn’t something that comes easy  to me, as further appearances for the Wasps’ contingent inevitably mean that others in the squad miss out, and that’s never going to be a straight forward decision to have to make. However, as a spectator I want Cov to put out the strongest side possible and that would have to include Jack at the moment. It’s one of those difficult choices that will divide spectator opinion and I’d fully expect that as such it’s not one that would be warmly received by all Coventry supporters.

There’s also part of me that really enjoys seeing young, talented players and certainly all three of the Wasps’ DRs fit into that category. Other teams in National 1 rely on the support of Premiership clubs to bolster their squads, so I really can’t see why we shouldn’t…

Unless you’re a Sam Harry, of course.

Sam is fast becoming more than just a fringe member of the squad, even at such a young age he is steadily working his way up the pecking order in terms of the back row hierarchy. Appearances in the Wasps A team, together with the prospect of further outings for them, make Sam a really good prospect AND he’s one of our own.

But the potential loss of Sam’s regular place in the match day squad has to be weighed against the benefits of having DRs come in and claim a starting place for themselves, thus denying him further opportunities. It’s a tough call to make and in the long-term, Cov needs the likes of Sam Harry to  develop into regular first team players, thus negating the need to take on DRs in the first place. It’s one of those decisions where the coaches will never please everyone…but that said, I’d welcome Jack back with open arms. Maybe sometime soon, if Sam develops into the player his ability suggests he might, there will be no need for us to take on another Jack Willis…

It’s a similar situation with Max Trimble and Dan Rundle, I guess. If both are fit, which presumably they must be to be playing for Nuneaton again this weekend, then they are being kept out of the side as a result of the form shown by Tom Howe and Owain James. Again, despite all the arguments for including both Coventry players, Cov has looked stronger in the last two games with Howe and James in the side.

I’m a big, big Dan Rundle fan…probably just behind ‘Eggshape’ (for those who read the Messageboard), but this season Dan hasn’t been anything like as influential in the games he’s played as he was in the 2014/15 season. That’s probably the result of a number of factors, including a style of play that exposes him a little more defensively and hasn’t yet given him the amount of ball, and the space, he needs to excel. I’m sure that next week both he and Max will be back in contention but  I can’t help but feel playing the Wasps youngsters tomorrow is the right decision, even if it is at the expense of two such talented individuals.

My hope is that both Max and Dan return to face Blaydon next weekend on the back of further fine performances this weekend for Nuneaton and Cov are able to provide them with good, quick ball so that they can terrorise a defence that is shipping points at the moment. More often than not, things work out for the best and it might well be the break away from Cov will have done Dan, in particular, no end of good. In front of a home crowd that will be willing him to succeed, I’m sure Dan wouldn’t disappoint. That’s all for the future of course, in the meantime I wish him, and Max, all the best for their home fixture with lowly placed Bedford Athletic.

With Coventry away this weekend, the opportunity to see Max and Dan play for Nuneaton might be an attractive option for those supporters not making the away trip, although it might be wise to check the Nuneaton website for details first (Nuneaton RFC website).

The inclusion of Boris Stankovich is good news, even if it does mean that Jimmy Lichfield does have to vacate his place on the bench. With clubs having access to all National 1 games played this season, Hull will have done their homework and have analysed Cov’s scrummaging over the past 8 games. I don’t think it will have made happy viewing.

Cov have continued to dominate teams up front in every game we’ve played,even in those that we’ve lost. The fact that Cov’s front row is so strong, whatever the combination of players, is going to be a concern for Hull. Knowing that when their front row are beginning to tire early in the second half they’ll as likely as not see Boris warming up on the touchline, well that’s a pretty worrying prospect. He and Brendon Snyman have had a huge influence on the forwards this season, especially in the set pieces, and if we can dominate Hull up front as we have most other teams, the confidence the backs have shown these last couple of games should ensure the game opens up a lot more than it has done in the three other away games we’ve played so far this season.

There’s always a buzz of excitement when Boris comes onto the pitch…he’s fast becoming a bit of a bit of a cult figure amongst the Cov crowd and is one of the few players who don’t need to be referred to by their surname.

He’s just Boris. Our Boris

Not unlike another Boris with whom we’ll all be familiar, although that one might not be quite so popular amongst the Cov rank and file.

I can certainly sense a feeling of renewed confidence amongst supporters with a belief that having had  a rather  uncertain start this season, the team is beginning to show the potential there is within the squad, with the belief that results will steadily improve over the weeks. In some respects, we have been unlucky with the way the fixtures have panned out this season, having to play what look likely to be the top four teams in a seven week period so early on in the season. However, having got through that tricky run of games, the next 7 are rather less demanding, although each will represent a difficulty challenge in their own right.

It’s no wonder that Rowland Winter commented that:

(The team) can’t wait to get up to Hull. We haven’t done ourselves justice so far when we have played away from home, but we are heading into the weekend with a strong and settled squad who are starting to find some form.

The phrase ‘strong and settled’ is key there.

RW has selected a strong and settled side capable of winning up at Hull and thus improving upon their present position of 7th in National League 1.

In short, the team is:

able, stable and climbing up the table..

To change the team is to risk unsettling it and that’s something RW can ill-afford to do. It’s a long season and with another 22 games still to go, those players not selected tomorrow will have plenty of opportunity to stake their claim in the coming weeks. I imagine patience is something in short supply when you’re not getting a chance to prove yourself on a Saturday afternoon, but patience is exactly what those not selected need to show. It only takes a slight rotation of a joint, a little pull of a muscle or 10 seconds of ill-discipline and any player could find himself unavailable for the next game.  Out of the blue a new player comes into the side and takes possession of the Cov shirt which is then, in turn, theirs to lose. It’s a tough game and it demands patience.

Patience and passion – and we saw that in abundance last week.

And passion is very much the order of the day for the many Cov supporters who’ll make the trip up to Hull tomorrow. With the average attendance for Hull home games less than 250, Cov supporters will make themselves definitely heard and hopefully this will be something that the players will be aware of and be able to feed off…as Rowland Winter points out:

We have the best home and away supporters in the league and we want to get up there and put in a performance that we and our fantastic travelling support are proud of….

…and I’m really looking forward to going up there, too, and witnessing Cov’s first away win under Rowland Winter.

As well as enjoying a happier journey back home!

Here’s hoping|


















By Tim

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